Can Casual Evil Be Good?
L. Andrew Cooper's Peritoneum and Leaping at Thorns Blog Tour!
August 8-14, 2016
Today I'm delighted to welcome Andrew Cooper to my blog. He's the author of Burning the Middle Ground, Descending Lines, Leaping at Thorns, Peritoneum and more, and he's currently touring the internet with lots of great posts, a touch of casual evil, and some serious horror blended with fiction and fun - so don't forget to scroll to the end of this post and learn where else to find him. Welcome Andrew, and thank you for a fascinating, thought-provoking blogpost!
Casual Evil, or, The Really Offensive Stuff in my Horror Collection Peritoneum
by L. Andrew Cooper
Melia looked at her long painted fingernails. Their colors changed as she contemplated them, lavender to aquamarine. “I like to get back to good old NYC. By the way, avoid the subways tomorrow.”
“Casualties?” Eli asked.
“Meh. Not many deaths. Some nice footage of burn victims on the news, though.” Melia regarded her fingernails with dissatisfaction.
— “The Birds of St. Francis,” Peritoneum
The subway violence that Melia promises Eli during this exchange from “The Birds of St. Francis” has no direct connection to that story’s main events. Melia likes to plan spectacles, so a subway strike, like repainting her nails, is an amusing pastime. She and Eli discuss murder with nail salon gravity, making fiery death trivial. Sitting at the top of a tower in Manhattan, they show no humanity as they destroy lives, and if readers notice what they’re doing, readers will probably find them offensive.
But readers might not notice. The exchange I’ve quoted is mere chatter while Melia, Eli, and a few of my other recurring villains come together as The Consortium for a “confab.” Maybe evil blends in so easily because of that Manhattan tower setting I mentioned. Eli also has limitless funds to buttress his evil: in the story “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies,” he offers a kid a billion dollars to kill his parents. While parricide still stokes curiosity, little is less remarkable than corruption by greed, and the financial deal probably doesn’t stand out as one of the story’s most crucial features. Nevertheless, it’s there, and maybe, in retrospect, the price-tag’s initial lack of noteworthiness makes the parricide more sickening.
I’ve just mentioned Manhattan towers and billionaires: maybe you’re thinking the point is that murder becomes a sickeningly casual evil in the shadows of corporate greed and the excesses of the rich. Maybe, but consider your own responses to mass shootings. Does each new report shock you beyond words, or do you sigh and say, “How many died this time?” Most of us can’t help it. If we let ourselves be shocked too often, we’d get fried senseless. Horrific crime is too common not to receive a casual reception. Evil is a regular customer who earns free appetizers instead of outrage. It munches comfortably in all our shadows.
In the story “Leer Reel,” movie-obsessed Consortium associate Louis Jardin rambles about his life in a mental institution. Convinced that he needs to pace his rambling so that he keeps hitting the reader with “whammos” (a term for big moments that producer Joel Silver said an action film ought to have every ten minutes or so), he glides over the most important information and rushes to gory bits. Like most media-saturated minds, he’s lost all proportion.
Will we ever regain proportion? Yes and no, but mostly no. There’s danger in the prefix “re.” We will not regain our old sense of proportion because we will not turn back time. We will, however, develop new tools for the growing world, and since we’re now beyond 7.4 billion people, we require entirely new senses of proportion.
I’m fairly silly about the horrific difficulty of proportion in a massive, corporatized world in the story “DNA.” The main character, a survivalist, must navigate a maze of office cubicles covered with company logos, fight off unshapely human-ish characters, and face other distorted beasts. The story ends at a McDonald’s, and though I don’t say so, I imagine the giant McDonald’s in Times Square. How do you deal with such an environment? Give in and order a sandwich.
Horror is an outlet for the nightmares of disproportion; it’s a tool for dealing with the world’s growing pains. It doesn’t end our complicity in evil’s casualness, but it does allow us to see our naked responses. Maybe if we see ourselves more clearly in nightmares, we’ll be able to handle ourselves better when we’re awake.
And fun! What’s the point of volunteering for nightmares if we can’t enjoy them? In the stories I’ve mentioned, I caricature evil. I have lots of theories but truly don’t understand why some people are so awful, and sometimes I have to snicker at the absurdity—and while I can’t laugh at real tragedies, I can sneer at the ridiculous at fiction. Use horror stories to benefit from evil however you can. Horror makes evil good for something, and in the end, I think it makes good better at confronting the real world.
Thank you Andrew, and now I know ... casual, fictional evil really can be good for something! Time to read some seriously good horror stories ...
About the author: L. Andrew Cooper scribbles horror: novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as anthologies of experimental shorts Leaping at Thorns (2014 /2016) and Peritoneum (2016). He also co-edited the anthology Imagination Reimagined (2014). His book Dario Argento (2012) examines the maestro’s movies from the 70s to the present. Cooper’s other works on horror include his non-fiction study Gothic Realities (2010), a co-edited textbook, Monsters (2012), and recent essays that discuss 2012’s Cabin in the Woods (2014) and 2010’s A Serbian Film (2015). His B.A. is from Harvard, Ph.D. from Princeton. Louisville locals might recognize him from his year-long stint as WDRB-TV’s “movie guy.” Find him at amazon.com/author/landrewcooper, facebook.com/landrewcooper, and landrewcooper.com.
About the book (Peritoneum): Snaking through history–from the early-1900s cannibal axe-murderer of “Blood and Feathers,” to the monster hunting on the 1943 Pacific front in “Year of the Wolf,” through the files of J. Edgar Hoover for an “Interview with ‘Oscar,'” and into “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies” for a finale in the year 2050–Peritoneum winds up your guts to assault your brain. Hallucinatory experiences redefine nightmare in “Patrick’s Luck” and “The Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion.” Strange visions of colors and insects spill through the basements of hospitals and houses, especially the basement that provides the title for “TR4B,” which causes visitors to suffer from “Door Poison.” Settings, characters, and details recur not only in these tales but throughout Peritoneum, connecting all its stories in oblique but organic ways. Freud, borrowing from Virgil, promised to unlock dreams not by bending higher powers but by moving infernal regions. Welcome to a vivisection. Come dream with the insides.
About the other book (Leaping at Thorns): Leaping at Thorns arranges eighteen of L. Andrew Cooper’s experimental short horror stories into a triptych of themes–complicity, entrapment, and conspiracy–elements that run throughout the collection. The stories span from the emotionally-centered to the unthinkably horrific; from psychosexual grossness to absurd violence; from dark extremes to brain-and-tongue twister. These standalone stories add important details to the fictional world and grand scheme of Dr. Allen Fincher, who also lurks in the background of Cooper’s novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines.
Where to find the Author:Website: landrewcooper.com.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/landrewcooper
Where to find the books:Amazon Links for Peritoneum
Barnes and Noble Link for Peritoneum
Amazon Links for Leaping at Thorns
Barnes and Noble Link for Leaping at Thorns http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/leaping-at-thorns-l-andrew-cooper/1120361766?ean=9781941706732
And How to Follow the Tour:8/8 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
8/8 SpecMusicMuse Guest Post
8/8 Darkling Delights Guest Post
8/8 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
8/9 Jordan Hirsch Review
8/10 The Seventh Star Interview
8/10 Vampires, Witches, Me Oh My Top Ten List
8/10 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Guest Post
8/11 EricJude.com Guest Post
8/12 Reviews Coming at YA Guest Post
8/13 I Smell Sheep Top Ten List
8/13 Bee's Knees Reviews Review
8/14 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post